Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Not My Problem"

When people are born, they have no rules
When people are born, they have no guides
When people have lived, they've left good peace
When people have lived, they've left awful spite

Don't come up to me and say it's not my problem
You'd think of yourself and no other way
The world's a team effort, sometimes harmony
An island it's not, among waves that fade away

You tell me he said this and that
Yet while you're gone I heard something else
How can you hold up your end of the line
When we play the hand that we have dealt?

Pretend in all your ignorance
'Cause small minds really think alike
You warn not to do many things
Yet hypocrisy flies you well like a kite

Don't come up to me and say it's not my problem
Lies and deceit, for dinner, what's there to eat?
Of morals and honour and equality
The humane and exquisite now boy, that's a feast

Negative thoughts and cowardice
Wake up, come and surface
You see what you want, and you want it right now
And yet you put others down for yourself, what a cow

Don't come up to me and say it's not my problem
(When people are born, they have no rules)
You'd think of yourself and no other way
(When people are born, they have no guides)
The world's a team effort, sometimes harmony
(When people have lived, they've left good peace)
An island it's not, among waves that fade away
(When people have lived, they've left awful spite)

Don't come up to me and say it's not my problem
(Prejudice, hypocrisy, vanity)
Lies and deceit, for dinner, what's there to eat?
(Harmony, diversity, equality)
Of morals and honour and equality
(Ignorance, impatience, condescension)
The humane and exquisite now boy, that's a feast

Don't come up to me and say it's not my problem
(Providence, truth, justice)
You'd think of yourself and no other way
(Narrow, short, blind)
The world's a team effort, sometimes harmony
(Motivation, autonomous, mastery)
An island it's not, among waves that fade away

Don't come up to me and say it's not my problem
(Sensual, observant, positive)
Lies and deceit, for dinner, what's there to eat?
(Hedonistic, spiteful, negative)
Of morals and honour and equality
(Faith, Trust, Morality)
The humane and exquisite now boy, that's a feast
(Hope, Spirit, Happiness)
--
Long-awaited lyrics to an instrumental piece I've been putting together for a long time (Working title was 'Man From Monaco'). Came from my annoyance and observance at those ignorant, small-minded, useless people out there who haltingly claim that it's "not their problem" in an issue usually directly regarding them.

Justin C.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Shortest Post/The Building

Haven't written something this short in a long long time.

But I'm writing it because of this coincidental thing that's been on my mind.

You ever have a crush on someone, and you happen to take a picture of them, and there's a building in the background, and a few years later you become friends with a girl who resembles this original crush and she turns out to live in that same building? Meanwhile you've got a picture of her lookalike in front of the same building by coincidence years earlier?

That's a plot or story right there, I think. I've got a few pictures on the canal taken during a high school field trip there and that coincidence occurred. Right near the Pretoria Bridge. Years later I took some nice night shots from the roof of a nearby building while with a friend who lived in that building in the background of those same canal shots (with a lookalike I liked in the foreground) from 2009.

Justin C.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Kool FM

When I was a certain age - I forget - I got an alarm clock for Christmas. I was probably eight. In fact, if I wanted to figure the exact year I received it, I could just look up certain hits of the time.

Hanson's song 'Where's the Love' was still in relatively heavy rotation when I got the radio, so it had to be Christmas 1997 (the single was released in September that year). I remember randomly turning the radio on one morning in hopes of hearing the song play, and it did, so that's definitely average to heavy rotation. It was that song or 'Millennium' by Robbie Williams I was listening for (which would put my getting the clock at the end of 1998) but I'm pretty sure it was Hanson.

When I was six, or seven, I got an alarm clock/radio for Christmas. I don't remember who bought it for me, other than it was a maternal relative. And for some reason or other, it became a routine every single night to turn the radio on when I got into bed, and fall asleep to it, sometimes turning it on again after it automatically turned itself off after an hour or so. It was just a normal thing for me. I've mentioned it on here before numerous times. But what I've never talked about in depth is the radio station I listened to.

I've always been someone who likes familiarity in certain aspects of life; when I graduated from a happy meal at McDonalds around the age of nine or ten, I got the same exact thing, only normal size - a quarter pounder, only cheese. The only, rare, variation I've had is when I added bacon. Otherwise I've had the same explicit cheese burger at McDonalds - and other fast-food restaurants - all my life. Ever since I've been driving my car, I've listened to Boom FM and only Boom FM. At first I changed between that and Bob FM (the successor to Kool FM) but quickly stayed on Boom due to its lack of 'whatever' and better focus on Canadian artists.

For the alarm clock, it was Kool FM I listened to every single night. 93.9. The station call sign, I know now, was and still is CKKL FM. The radio station didn't broadcast 80s or older (at the time). Their focus was adult contemporary. Which basically meant they played current music that wasn't too hit-heavy but not too old either.

Since it was the late 90s at the time, I was hearing a mix of bubblegum pop, boy-band music and light electronica, sometimes a little Britpop. I enjoyed the majority of it. I didn't have an interest or much exposure to music from the 1980s at that time. The only stuff I'd heard at all was from my mother's music video tapes, all recorded off of MuchMusic. I wasn't interested in any of it at that age because my mentality then was that those videos were just "old" and therefore uninteresting. I used to always fast-forward through the older stuff to get to the then-current or recent videos she'd recorded because whenever she put the tape on, she'd always watch the Hanson, Robyn, Oasis, and Backstreet Boys videos, and I enjoyed them just as much.

The thing about this old routine that makes me wonder quite a bit is the direction my musical tastes were heading, or influenced. The first song from the 1980s that really got my ears was 'Our House' by Madness - and I even heard that song's chorus for the first time on Kool FM. That and 'Rio' by Duran Duran. But everything else on there was current, right up until they decided to rebrand it as Bob FM and change its programming to 80's, 90's, and 'whatever.' I remember listening to a Justin Timberlake song in the summer of 2002 on Kool FM; I never changed the channel. Had the station never changed its programming, would I have continued keeping up with current stuff that it played?

When Bob FM replaced Kool FM on May 30th, 2003 (according to this website) I don't remember ever listening to Bob FM, really. By 2003 I somehow fell out of that routine of listening to the clock radio. Besides, the radio itself had gone through a lot of abuse by me over the years, and when it was finally thrown out, the clear plastic face had been cracked and removed by me, the sticky translucent black cover over the numbers got pulled off so you couldn't really see the time, and other things had been done to it. I never listened to the radio on the next alarm clock I got because, simply put, it sucked.

Looking back over that time-period, it seems almost like it was the golden years of radio listening for me. The late 90s and early 2000s really did have some pretty good stuff, even though I often say I don't listen to anything after the year 2000. That's not really true. A couple of hours ago, out of nowhere, the names "McMaster & James" appeared in my mind instantaneously, and I instantly remembered that as the names of a duo that had a song play now and then on Kool FM. I looked them up. They were Canadian. The song I used to hear was called 'Love Wins Everytime.' Listening to it again on YouTube, it had an obvious reggae style to it. Unsurprising.

One thing synesthesia often does is produce certain colour/texture/spatial scene-scapes that are almost never forgettable. By extension, you virtually never forget what caused that backdrop or virtual landscape. Since sound is the main catalyst for me, I have never forgotten a certain jingle the station used to play as a bumper between music and commercials, in the morning: "Coolest hits in the morning/93.9/Kool FM!" Typing that, I hear it in my mind as if I heard it yesterday. There were three separate, different coloured spatial scenes I instantly created for each sentence in that jingle. All of them were appealing to my mind's eye, particularly my mind as a child. A woman sort of sang each part. It brings back accompanying memories of what I associated those colours with a the time, such as the morning in general, swimming at the pool, morning sunlight, childhood friends or experiences, etc. etc. I've never been able to locate the jingle online, whether on YouTube or simply by Google, but I guess no one really gets access to that kind of thing to put online unless they happen to have a cassette of old songs they recorded off of the radio and accidentally included the station's jingle or bumper in between.

To finish, I have a feeling that if Kool FM stayed on air, to this day, I wouldn't really have continued listening to it anyway; after that disappeared, I listened to Bob FM sporadically and usually only briefly at a time, and other stations like the Hot 89.9 were showing up around that time as well. I remember helping my best friend move in 2004 and, riding in their car, all they played was that station, which was basically current stuff, and hits only. I didn't like any of the songs broadcast on it at all. By then I must have decided I liked older stuff, like what I used to hear. The majority of the current hits coming out of the radio then seemed to be hip-hop or R&B or dance to an extent, or aggressive-sounding pop that at the very least included a featured rapper. Maybe I'd discovered and listened to the lyrics of a song a lot more closely by that time and didn't like how explicit they seemed to be. Kool FM was a station that was adult contemporary, or otherwise current music. They wouldn't have been as hit-heavy as the Hot 89.9 was and is (as a result you hear the same songs played all over again within an hour due to the lack of much variety in today's hit music) but they would have showcased enough for me not to be as interested anymore.

I loved Kool FM - but I loved it as a late 90s/early 2000s showcase, for what I used to listen to it for. I miss it, but I miss it out of nostalgia. It's funny in a way, because I found a playlist on YouTube called "93.9 Kool FM Ottawa" and it featured several N'Sync music videos and another one by someone I'd never heard of. Trying it out, it turned out to be an obviously 90s electronica song. Something that sounds almost 100% like an electronic or current song from today. But somehow, even with the super-obvious similarity, it still somehow sounded and looked completely appealing to me, all because I knew right away that this was a 90s creation, something from the time of my childhood. I knew it in my heart. It was called "Mr. Vain" by an outfit called 'Culture Beat.' They released it in 1993.

I guess it's a generational or nostalgic thing. Kool FM came into being on August 28th, 1992. It ceased at noon, May 30th, 2003. It broadcast on air for 10 years and roughly nine months. In February this year, Bob FM passed that milestone in its place. It's something I miss - for when I was a kid, in the 90s, and even the early 2000s. Good memories not necessarily just created by the music but brought into accompaniment by the music, or the jingles, or whatever.

Coolest hits in the morning/93.9/Kool FM!

Justin C.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Let's Get This Cure!

Whenever I find an article that has to do with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome, it often mentions that there is no treatment or cure for it. Often, it mentions that right after talking about certain notable people who have it or profiling a man or a child who is either distinguished in his chosen field or career, or has a special interest that he or she as a child is obsessed about and a master in.

It gives me some mixed emotions, because as a young man with Asperger's Syndrome, there are negatives and positives, and I like to focus on the positives generally. Of course, you have to distinguish Asperger's Syndrome from Autism itself - AS is, from what I've read, considered a "much milder form" of autism and is on the spectrum. It's an Autism Spectrum disorder.

The thing is, having Asperger Syndrome does make life more difficult in certain ways, almost entirely in social matters. One becomes quite one-dimensional in that aspect. Last autumn, I sent a message to my friend's boyfriend saying not to worry, I don't have feelings for her, and explained my reasoning. I thought he would read it, and only he - no one else. It was addressed to him, wasn't it? That's taking things literally and one-dimensionally, without the obvious likelihood that if you e-mail a guy about his girlfriend, his girlfriend is most definitely going to end up reading it. That led to a great weekend for me. And even though everyone on that matter really thought I would realize that, I really didn't. Being unintentionally rude or blunt or tactless is something I am unfortunately great at not realizing right away.

However, while it has made certain aspects of my life harder, I often don't react warmly to the hope of a treatment or a cure in a very personal sense because, at least in my case, that would remove certain aspects of me that I find positive. Having AS is a part of who I am. I'm not saying being unintentionally direct or blunt or obnoxious is who I am, I'm saying my little quarks or interests or focuses is who I am.

I know there is a much worse side of this. I know there are children and adults who cannot live independently or function at all - those with severe cases of Autism or low-functioning Asperger's really have a much more difficult life. Kids who sit in silent trances, unable to communicate and highly sensitive to touch or light or sound, people who cannot bear to have any part of their everyday routine disrupted in any way at all, or the world might as well come to an end. I do wish there was some kind of highly-successful therapy or treatment or even a cure for those kinds of cases. I'm not ignoring that facet of the disorder or Autism.

What I'm focusing on here are those people who have managed to balance the positive and the negative aspects of their life with the disorder, or those who have managed to minimalize the negatives to the point that having AS is actually in a way a benefit. An outstanding trait of the disorder is to have a huge obsession or interest in a certain niche or subject or thing. Often those who grow up with AS high-functioning and successful contribute highly to their field of interest thanks to that obsession. Think about it this way: What if Asperger's Syndrome didn't exist? Of course many thousands of children would be better off in many ways, but we wouldn't have a lot of notable people or what they've given the world as an indirect result of that. Dan Aykroyd apparently has Asperger Syndrome; I'm a bit obvious in referring to Temple Grandin, but we wouldn't have her methods and inventions if she wasn't hugely focused on what she was passionate about, something that was in extremes thanks to her AS. There's a big concentration of software engineers and brilliant minds in Silicon Valley in California that create and innovate all the time - and that area has one of the much higher concentrations of people diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

I'm definitely not discounting that yes, there are people out there who are so affected by this disorder or by Autism that they can't really function in many ways, or the negatives far outweigh the positives - I'm definitely an advocate of some kind of cure or treatment. However, don't remove the positives either. There are some great things in the world thanks to some great people who have Asperger's, whether it be Gary Numan ("Here in my car...") or Daniel Tammet, the prodigious savant. We have some great things to offer the world. We may not always come off as perfectly tactful - we don't mean it that way - but on the inside, we do care.

As for myself, yes, I am obsessed with aerial photography and urban change over time. Sure. But that also means that I'm a pretty good authority on the majority of what happened or changed where I grew up, over half a century, physically. And I love music. What do I do on here all the time? I write song reviews and literally take apart each chord or note I hear by ear, and present it so if anyone wanted to try playing the song themselves, they have a place to look up the breakdown of the notes. And I'd be happy to help them figure it out.

I hope they come up with some kind of therapy or treatment that helps those who are strongly affected; as for the "Aspies" and the high-functioning crowd, I can't wait to see what brilliant thing we'll do next.

Justin C.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Electronic Music Sung by Women

Recently, I came across two songs, both sung by women, that are particular interest. One is a song I'd heard of by name but not by ear, and I knew its name because I knew the artist, Laura Branigan (first when I tried out her interpretation of the music of 'Der Kommissar' by Austrian artist Falco). The other song was something of a chance encounter on YouTube - I saw the video thumbnail in the related videos, and the name, and decided to try it out, which is very rare for me to do.

'Self-Control' is something I heard on the radio while driving. I didn't know what it was at first and thought it sounded eerie and electronic and quiet, until I noticed a nice, familiar procession in the music. By familiar, I do not mean that I'd heard the song before and found its hook familiar, I mean that the hook itself is used often in other pop songs and is pleasing to the ear accordingly, so therefore it was familiar. But even though I'd never heard it before, I was quick to deduce somehow quickly that it was Self-Control by Laura Branigan, even though I'd only known the song existed thanks to its music video often popping up in related video thumbnails on YouTube.

It works by...ah, leave it out. You know what? I'm going to try something and avoid taking the song apart and just leave it at that. Use of of my own 'self-control.' It's a familiar procession, which means that it sounds like something you might have heard before in other songs, probably 'Hotel California' (for certain verses of this song anyway, and only by similarity, not exactly). I haven't bothered to work it out on the piano or the bass, so I don't know what musical notes or chords are played. For the sake of simplicity, I'll just say that the music sounds slightly above average in pitch...and then goes down to a different pitch that explains everything I've just over-written, during verses.

It's got a bit of a dark rock-feel to it in the beginning, but you know the entire thing is mostly synthed and pop. Particularly the sound of the 'drums' and the, well, synths.

It's generally likable to me, even with the masculine voices during the bam! part. You know, that...just listen to it. Where the music stops and there's these chorus male voices coinciding with sudden crashes.

On Wikipedia it says that it was one song out of several that were Italian that she adapted for her own English lyrics. This one was different in that she used the English lyrics from a different version on this, so she's re-adapted this Italian-written and performed song into her own with English lyrics from the English version of the song by someone else. Considering how she seems to pick other songs from elsewhere and either write her own English lyrics (or discover someone else has already done it, and go on to copy them) you might think she's an artist only for her voice and not for her music or writing or, well, frankly, creativity. But everyone has their niche, and if it's the sound of your voice, more power to you. Interestingly, while American, Branigan's version of this song did very well in Europe and Switzerland and is one of her most-recognized hits.

I'm not sure if I've heard it before now, but I kind of like it. Mostly for its musical procession, but you know me.

Music: B+
Lyrics: F (She didn't write her own, she copied them from someone else who interpreted and performed them in English first; but I'll give her a B for the sound of her voice and a B+ to the bloke who actually wrote them).

The second song comes from Germany (but it's in English). The title got me when I saw it in the related videos while listening to the Self-Control video (and if you open the embedded video above in YouTube it'll probably still be there). It's called 'Maria Magdalena' by an artist called Sandra.

The name stuck out at me because it was something that seemed familiar - "Maria Magdalena." I've heard the name somewhere. My interest was piqued.

When I heard the unusual introduction, I recognized it but if I heard it before, I have no idea where; the chorus also sounded vaguely familiar too, from a long time ago at least. All I know is that I love her voice and the lyrics. The music, while not necessarily original-sounding, is still refreshing. Anyway, it's virtually impossible to hear something original from any recent time, including the 1980s, and I prefer familiar sounds or processions anyway.

The lyrics, which are sung by both Sandra and the bass player (whose voice isn't bad either) appear to refer to a situation wherein the subject of those words is making attributes to the singer that aren't hers, which I find in some way familiar. The chorus particularly shows this with the two of them singing. I didn't go in-depth with describing the Self-Control lyrics because I listen more to the music of that song, but they ring with me in this one, which is a great sign.

There's some familiarity to the predicament I'm reading. You ever find yourself in a relationship where you're friends with a girl or boy who looks exactly like someone else you've been attracted to for a long time - but could never be with? Yeah yeah - I know those who come here often know where I'm going here. But in this case the singer knows this and is being upfront about it. "I'll never be Maria Magdalena." Meanwhile the bassist is going on with descriptions - "You're a creature of the night," etc. - and then saying things like "You need love."

For me it takes me back to last September-October, where I was friends with a lookalike of all those Slavic girls (which made sense as she herself is Slavic); at the time she was quite upfront about her care for my own personal issues and negativity, though at the same time she couldn't be the lookalike and couldn't "share my life" as lyrics go due to our polar opposite ideas and aspirations (and the fact she had a boyfriend). That's where the song really speaks to me: I'm a creature of the night - I'm negative, dark. Then my old friend says something very sympathetic or caring as was her nature - "You need love" as it goes in the song - but at the same time, she'll never be "Maria Magdalena." Of course there's a different name in my case, but yeah.

If Laura Branigan's voice was nice in her song, Sandra's voice is awesome in hers. It's smooth and bright and very easy to listen to. Kind of sweet. The music, while also electronic, is easy and nice.

All the electronic and 80s stuff are in there as usual, including those drum pad things. I guess with me it's just a consistent admiration or fondness or enjoyment of it all. And it's some rare, great stuff from Germany (all I've ever heard from them is the 'moterick beat' term for rhythm or drumming - I haven't tried something like Kraftwerk yet).

Music: B+
Lyrics: A [A+ for her voice].

On an ending note, I'm not nearly as negative or of the night as I was months ago, or even weeks ago. I think I'm just heading past the morning dawn.

Justin C.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Generations

Over the past few weeks I've been doing a simple portrait thing where I find one image of someone from a decade and do this so on from their birth decade to the present decade. For grandparents it's been interesting. Unfortunately I haven't been able to get an image from every single decade of some people (like both sets of grandparents) but it's still comprehensive.

I sit at the top - there are only three images there because I've only been around for three decades, and I chose particularly unusual images of myself in a certain theme; I've got a hat or some unusual headwear on my head in each image.

Beneath me are both my parents - my mother on the left and father on the right, from the 60s to the present. Considering my mother's and father's families were both widely travelling ones, both of them contain pictures on the top row that were all taken in separate places of the world. My mother's father was in the military so they moved all over Canada; my dad's father was first a Canadian High Commissioner and later a diplomat, so my father's images on the top row were taken in places in Europe as well as here.

Both sets of grandparents occupy the lower middle, smaller than everyone else yet containing the most images, about nine of them each. They're small because they both fit under my mother and father, respectively, so it takes on a very generational look. In that way you sort of see how they get linked together going to the top. Both grandfathers had very distinguished careers as I noted at the top, so their images sort of come from everywhere. The 50's image of my mother's father was taken in Quebec and is a wedding photo while my father's father's image was taken from a University of Winnipeg graduation photo. One's in Toronto in his 70s image, the other in Segovia, Spain.

On the very bottom is one maternal uncle - my mother's younger brother - and one paternal aunt - my father's younger sister. It sort of rounds it out. Both are under their respective parents.

The thing I like about this is how it sort of, in a way, tells a multi-generational story of all these different walks of life, all leading towards me. Which sounds self-centred and egotistical, I realize, but this is a personal project, really. And I'm an only child of those two parents. If I had an older brother or sister, he'd/she'd be at the top. Every person aging forward in those images has a story to tell, a life well-lived, and mistakes or triumphs he/she's lived through. Some have had very exciting careers, others not as well-travelled (in a career sense). Everyone looks handsome or beautiful in their youth, aged with dignity in the present. Except for me; I'm only 22. Some of those images were taken at the moment of a milestone or life-changing event, such as my paternal grandpa's graduation photo, or my maternal grandpa's 80s image, which was cropped from a photo of him achieving his rank of Chief Warrant Officer in 1981. People change; hairstyles change or disappear entirely. I wear a firefighter hat and then a panama hat almost twenty years later. My mother's hair gradually goes brown, then highlighted with blonde to hide the silver. My father's hair gets long and then permanently short, and finally bright grey.

One thing I don't take into account is the year of the decade - it's not a neat ten years apart between each image. As long as it's more than 3-6 years (my decided amount of time for anything about someone's face to change) I'll use it. I might have failed that rule in terms of my paternal grandmother's face between the 60s and 70s images, but oh well. Another rule is that the images aren't permanent. If I find more that are missing I'll add to it; if I'm told that an image is from the wrong decade or too close in time to the one next to it, or backwards, I'll change it. It's almost like a changing quilt and my maternal grandparents' parts have been added to/changed.

To conclude, there's something funny about the two uncle/aunt images at the bottom, and it's how they look in their youths; I don't know how I can think of two girls I've been attracted to, and then look at those images and realize how they could be plausible twin sisters/sisters of both relatives. Maybe it's a familiarity thing. I don't know. But it makes me laugh quite a bit. Weird.

Justin C.

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's Makin' Me Crazy

Yet again, they've played something at Wal-Mart that catches my ear, although I've heard it before. It was a rock song obviously from the '70s that I'd originally heard from Everybody Loves Raymond, back when I watched it often over ten years ago.

It was one of the songs they used in their later opening sequences of the episodes. Knowing the lyrics of the song now, it hardly applies to the sitcom at all; they merely used the song for its chorus, which in that context serves the quick scenes of the show's obvious humour/ethos quite well.

"Jungle Love" by the Steve Miller Band, 1977.

Looking at the comments under the video, most people refer to how they saw it on that show, which kind of makes me feel a bit sad for the song itself - I'm no exception. I wish I'd heard it on the radio rather than on a television sitcom. It's kind of like it's up to TV shows to bring back forgotten gems from thirty-forty years ago. I'm sure Glee does that a lot, for which I have no option but to salute it for doing so; no one my age or in their younger teens is going to listen to radio stations that focus on hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Or at least not a majority of them. The only problem I have with Glee is its tendency to have its version outperforming the original this many years later - come on, it's a cover version by a group of young adults playing to soundalike music; how is that better than the original? They didn't create it. To me that just makes Glee's actors the new originals, because they apparently sound better than the actual artists did, so will viewers make a point of listening to the original? Apparently that isn't as popular. But oh well. I'm sure you have Glee fans looking up the actual songs often enough, which is good.

They played this song at Wal-Mart both days I worked there, which actually made me remember to look it up, on my phone. I couldn't make out the first two words of the chorus, but I knew it went '...it's driving me mad, making me crazy,' etc. At first I mondegreened those two words as one, being 'Trubloff' which was the (Russian) name of a tall black dog my paternal grandparents owned in Trinidad before I was born. There's a painting in their house of it approaching an entrance gate, with obvious long legs. Recently, I discovered the painting was actually based on an identical photograph of the dog approaching the inner entrance gate of the diplomatic residence in which my grandparents lived. Thinking that was the lyric made me smile because even though I never knew Trubloff I simply liked the reference, even though I knew that wasn't the lyric; the lyric itself is 'Jungle love.'

Upon hearing it, virtually everything clicked for me. Every instrument. The sound of the singer's voice. The lyrics. The verses have an excitement to it thanks to the guitar and its style; I like how the drummer must have hit a floor tom every second snare hit. It gives the drums a sort of rooted 'boom' sound that elevates them into a realm of anticipation and excitement for me. The bass is all over the place, from low to high. Then there's the chorus, where it starts out quite low, which is perfect - then ascends higher and higher in the notes very quickly.

It's a nicely-paced rock song that's exciting and bright and quite enjoyable. I recognize the sound effect at the beginning, just unsure of where it came from exactly, probably an arcade game of the time or pac man. It also sounds like the daily double sound effect out of Jeopardy! (the sound effect intro, not the song).

There's the lyrics, which have a jungle or tropical island theme to them and seem to detail love affair between the voice and a woman on the island or whom he met on the island, which suggests that they remain there, but I'm not sure. One line I like quite a lot is 'you thought you had seen me before.' It makes me smile; perhaps it's the idea that you'll see someone you'll end up with more than once before you actually meet them, without realizing it, or perhaps it applies to that whole lookalike thing I've gone on about for ever, where you think you've seen this person before but she only turns out to be a lookalike of someone else you found attractive, so, great. I just know I liked that lyric right away. But what I really find about the lyrics that seems so natural and right is just the idea of being out in the jungle, experiencing 'jungle love.' Perhaps my delight is inspired by a childhood movie from 1995, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (which takes place in the African jungle) and has a few memorable scenes. I remember loving the atmosphere and look and scenery of the trees and apparent feel of all of it on TV when I was young, and I still do now. Maybe it's an inner desire to go to places like that, like the Republic of Congo or Mindo Nambillo, or wherever it's a tropical climate and jungle, water, and just feel at peace.

I feel like Wilson from Home Improvement saying all of that right there. It's hyperlinked to a specific episode on YouTube I'm referencing when I say that. What I mean though is the idea of the naturalness of being in a place like that, in tune with Mother Nature and having someone at your side, bathing in the ocean, understanding your place in the world, just being surrounded by natural, living things and feeling that way. Perhaps that's part of what makes this song, from the music to the lyrics and title, sound so good and in a way right somehow. You can go ahead and be childish about it in reading this - I'm sure 90% of those who do will - but I don't care, so it is what it is. I'm not saying this is like the music video to Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like The Wolf' (which includes scenes of a man and woman half-naked coming at each other in a forest) I'm saying to be surrounded by and being in a place where there's no human interruption or artificial influence, with someone, sounds nice and right in a way.

I think this song will be my favourite one of the year. It's just plain great and nice and feel-good.

Justin C.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Developed Love

It's a term created by my memory of a short talk with a co-worker at work today. He may not have used that exact phrase, but it sounds good to me regardless. It refers to a couple of things I've come to think about regarding how crushes and attraction sometimes work.

This is probably the most common experience ever. You get the idea that a girl or boy or whoever is attracted to you, or appears to like you, and they aren't in any way unattractive to you, so you instantly reciprocate that (assumed) interest.

It's like when people dance around each other pointlessly when they like each other: Someone locks eyes with another person, multiple times in a situation, and he/she may smile. This entails an almost ritualistic approach where this goes back and forth, as long as whichever person's personality or interest lets it go. It's nothing but assumption and wonder, and if it's someone being looked at, hope because well, hey, he/she's handsome/pretty.

Because people are social creatures, as well as indecisive ones and unpredictable ones and unexplainable ones, the whole affair of crushes or attraction can be long and virtually nothing but assumption. Unless one party actually goes and talks to the other. In other words, the long and virtually nothing part just applies to me. Sorry. I mean, it can be briefly or interminably filled with assumption.

In my past experience, going back to middle school, in that entire time, that's the way I've gone in terms of having crushes on girls: I thought they had a crush on me, and immediately became interested, and probably weird (at least at first). That's seven in total. Seven in...eleven years now. The actual number is eight, but the eighth doesn't apply to this dynamic at all, at least fully. This dynamic continues to this day, and is happening right now, every time I have a class on Monday. My frustration in my last post, heavily drawing upon what I said in the fourth paragraph, stems from that.

There is a second dynamic in this, and it's virtually the opposite of this one: Being the person smiling and looking at the other first, starting the whole thing. Originating the attraction.

When I said there was an eighth that didn't 'fully' apply to that track record, what I meant is that I thought she liked me at first, and therefore started reciprocating. The way it is now though is that I have all those feelings on my own, none of which is reciprocated, and I am very certain of this. I know that I have intense emotions regarding the eighth that are there whether she likes me or not, and that they are in a non-demanding, non-pressuring form that translates as "as long as you're happy, I'm happy."

Anyway, I wonder what the percentage is of couples who came together based on the fact one had a crush on the other and the other noticed this and started liking the former back simply because of that. I tend look at it from a very negative point of view because of my severe lack of confidence, interest in most people, inexperience, inapproachable expression, and difficulties. You can go ahead and say "then change." It goes further than that: I have to work on self-esteem and self-perception issues and my own laziness and inner negativity before I can do any of that, and I won't try looking approachable by smiling because it's unlikely I'll ever get over the feeling that I look rather creepy doing it. Or telling someone I don't know well that I care. I'm not looking for sympathy. I don't deserve it. Anyone who knows how to fix his own issues needs no sympathy.

Justin C.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stop Smiling at Me

Being born with something often called an 'exception' in Individual Education Placement forms which someone like me has doesn't have its perks. What's positive about having Aspergers? I have a sense of slight individuality from the feeling of being set apart a little. But the negatives are much larger. From the ugly-sounding name to the difficulties it entails. It's an Austrian name. It was named after the Austrian guy who first noticed children were different in a way that wasn't before sorted into its own category. You could shorten it to AS, which might as well sound the same as 'ass' which is what I've been called a few times in my life, thanks to stupid situations I've unwittingly or unintentionally created. It's not far off.

It's not just the name or the social 'aspect,' it's the label I apparently wear when with my paternal family, it's the niche-ness of it, the ego-centrism of it and a list of other things. Most exasperating is relationships with other people and the opposite sex as well. I don't really talk to girls to begin with. You could say I'm about twelve or thirteen years old in that area, in terms of experience or knowledge or exposure.

Something that annoys me particularly is when you catch a girl glancing at you quite often in a short span of time, and sometimes she'll smile. Oh, stop it. Unless you have something to say, don't bother. Unless you want to walk over and talk to me and get to know me out of genuine interest, you can stop flashing your teeth. I'm not going to come over there. I don't mean to be rude, but while I welcome a hello or a new friend, you'll have to initiate it instead of smile at me. I'm not going to do anything. I'm not a normal guy without mental issue; I don't know how to interpret that in a more refined way that would guide me to knowing better what that frequent glancing or grin means. It's out of my control, out of my knowledge. I'm quite stupid there. What do you want? To talk to me? To like me? To admire me for some unbalanced reason?

Any other person that's human and my age would look at me after reading what I just wrote above and say, "are you dense? Either you're looking at her and imagining everything, or she likes you, dumbass."

Perhaps. And though it's probably the former, to entertain the notion of the latter for a second, I still don't know and I'm not going to go up and blatantly ask that to her face; while I may have negatively painted myself as an idiot, I do have a sense of what appropriate means. And if I try to be open or nice or conversational and she isn't totally responsive, then what a real waste of time that was. It frustrates me. Have nothing much to say? That stop smiling and glancing at me!

People are the most complicated beings on the planet. That notion makes life quite interesting as well as quite maddening. Unfortunately for me, that makes it more maddening than anything else, and consider my amazing track record of past friends. I've devoted a lot of time to quite a few shitty relationships. They've come apart at the fault of mine and that other person's, though from my side it's always been the other persons' intolerance or extreme self-centredness or self-benefit or childish hypocrisy that dominates the grief, over-pinning my unintentional blunders or words that sound back-handed or sarcastic but never intended that way.

There are two sides to the issue of A...I can't even write that awful name. On one side are the people who are open-minded and believe one can overcome certain difficulties and eventually grow and move into the state of virtually not having any differences. Then there's the other side. That consists of those who statically believe that this is a disability, something you can't really fix other than with constant observation and pointed admonishing to that person, micro-managing. You'd call me an annoying, incapable nuisance perhaps. But that would go for the highly ignorant. On most days I like to think on the more open-minded side. But when it comes to situations like new people or glancing, smiling girls (who have no idea what they're really smiling at) or mustering up the interest in the general things normal people like as opposed to your very niched interests (aerial photos!) it's just discouraging and unfortunate. I'm developing the habit of shutting up about any person who does glance at me; some people react to that statement of mine by saying, "ah, you're making girls uncomfortable again?" or being sarcastic. Hey, I might as well invent some invisible friends while I'm at it. It's probably the best I'll do, eh?

There's only one more thing to learn, and it's to not react or get in any way excited when someone shows interest, because otherwise that's just building a tower from which to fall. When they come to me, that's when I'll smile back and be warm. Not that they will, I've unfortunately got a pissed-off looking face. If you don't know what I mean, look at a picture of Eminem, the rap artist. Doesn't he always look angry? He probably isn't, it's just how his face and eyes naturally look.

Justin C.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

We Love It!

This is going to be quick - I have an early get-up time tomorrow - so I'll be to the point.

I've seen a few bits and pieces of the new late-night show lineups - Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, etc. - and while I haven't been particularly impressed, what I saw tonight really put a smile on my face.

The musical guest was just starting. A guy named Randy Newman. Never really heard of him yet the name somehow sounded familiar. He started playing the piano. Sang about people dressing like monkeys in New York. Okay.

Then the most familiar musical procession started up. A variation of that same synesthetic imagery flooded my mind, and it took me hardly a second to decode it into the ending of Mr. Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie from 1997. That's where it came from. That "I Love L.A." tune near the end of the film. That was the guy and the song?

Scenes from the film splashed across my mind. Bean's being driven around L.A. in Peter Langley's convertible, taking pictures, and there's imagery of the streets and pedestrians, etc. I thought at the time of seeing it that the song was written specifically for those scenes in the film. Eventually I'd come to know it was a song independent of the film, but I thought the artist was black just judging by his voice. I never looked it up because I expected to see a glossy pro-L.A. party-like thing and I wasn't really interested in that.

Hearing it now, though, years later, completely out of context of that film with its scenes and imagery, it takes on an almost fully different perspective for me. I looked it up on YouTube. It had actually been recorded more than a decade before the film had been released, and not at the same time (as was the case for Boyzone's "Picture of You" which was recorded in conjunction with the film by a boy band that despite my thinking and its sound is actually Irish).

Hearing it independent of the film, it's also the full song and not edited specifically for its scenes. An easy, mellow piano opens it as he sings a verse or two, deriding New York and Chicago - and then a bright piano mixed with synthesizer immediately takes over. D major. D-F#-A. Right away. This synth does the individual notes while a jaunty piano plays D major, F# minor, C# minor, and E major. I figured this out over fifteen minutes with my keyboard and slowing it down in Audition.

These opening notes (apart from the actual piano intro) immediately put a smile on my face, a big one. They're just super feel-good. Like someone's tipping their hat off to you, with a grin on their face. Like it's your birthday and you're behind the candles, about the blow them out. I find it interesting that when I first heard it I didn't associate it with D major at all, it was just a blurry roundabout-looking texture that's a whitish colour, and super feel-good. As soon as I listened carefully and tried playing the chord note by note, it immediately made sense and the texture aligned accordingly in my head. Had the synth been a normal piano, I would likely have known it was D major by ear a lot quicker.

Here's the opening synth, if you play music, or like to know how it works:
D-F#-A,* F#-A-C#-F#-E-C#-C#, E-G#, E-E-C#-E-C#-E-C#... and over again.

*The first three together create D major.

You play D major during the first three notes, then on the F# you're playing the corresponding chord (F# minor). Then you head to C# minor when you hit the two C#'s, and end on E major upon the E after the G#. All the chords correspond easily to what note the synth is playing, very straightforward, in a four-chord progression. Basic and quite rudimentary in music or pop songs.

The first verse starts on A major...yeah, I'll stop there. This is a review, not a dissection and tutorial. Anyway, the song is reminiscent of the film for me, and it sounds both positive and pessimistic at the same time. You kind of get a sense of greatness from the song thanks to musical notes that ascend and descend quite obviously. The drums kick in quite nicely in the beginning. There are soft bits and other parts that build up really well. The song's almost like a roller coaster, musically. At the end the guitars come in the compliment the synths to give it a good climax. I get a sense of light-hearted fun, sunshine, even decadence in a way. Like you can go to L.A. or southern California, basically, and it'll be like your perfect, happy birthday or something, or sense of fun times.

Lyrically, Newman sings about general things you'd find just about anywhere. Look at that mountain, look at those trees; look at that bum, he's down on his knees. Good things and negative ones. Of course, go to Vancouver or places in Europe and you'll see mountains, and if you go virtually anywhere you'll see trees. Had he specified a local-kind of tree like the iconic palm trees or others native to California he might sound like he's referring to L.A., but "look at those palm trees" or "look at those California Live Oak Trees" probably doesn't mesh well in a line of a pop song. When he does get L.A. specific, he uses street names.

The real idea of the lyrics essentially is to point out that L.A. trees or mountains or women or bums are different than what you'd find anywhere else, in a much better, grander way. "Look at those women, ain't nothing like 'em nowhere." Makes me think of 'California Girls' by the Beach Boys (also referenced in the song) though their lyrics talk about wishing all great girls of the world were California girls, not vice versa.

I see the lyrics in a positive light compared to how I saw them originally. They're the words of a man who just loves his city. It's not patriotism or "born in the USA!" or anything like that, just positive words and music about a city someone loves. I respect and like that. I wish I could do that with Ottawa. Put some feel-good music down and write about the good things about Ottawa, what I love about it. I could. The issue is that compared to L.A., Ottawa has virtually no culture and only two real iconic landmarks - Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal. With Los Angeles you way more than just famous people, you have the film industry and its culture, famous theatres, buildings, landmarks, even famous streets and famous signs. What could I say about Ottawa? "Look at that hill, look at those trees. Look at that politician, he's down on his knees. Look at those woman, ain't nothing like 'em over here." Let's yell "Wellington! We Love it!" We don't have a 6th street. We have a Chinatown and a Hintonburg. "Somerset Street! We Love it! Preston Street! We love it!" Rolling down the Queensway with a big nasty redhead at my side/Gatineau Hill winds blowin' in cold from the north/and we was born to freeze...

As for the music video, it had me laughing at first. You get a cold, sepia-tone image of New York from under a bridge in a factory zone as Newman walks away unimpressed...then, with the sudden synth and piano comes a sudden slideshow of summer images mixed with L.A. scenery, chrome and car grilles and bikinis close-up. Way to jump the contrast. Newman spends the video cruising in a convertible with a redhead girl while you get scenes of the city and people saying "We love it!"I can easily applaud his taste; I'd ride in a convertible with a redhead any day. Just not here.

Okay, Randy Newman. Fine. I like L.A. too. You've done your job right. It looks enticing...for someone from the city 'fun forgot.'

Music: A
Lyrics: B+
Music Video: B- (laughable).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Daniel Morgan

Since mid-January, I've been writing a manuscript. Tonight, it's finished.

It was one of those things that had potential that worked well enough for me to write it fully and finish it because it's in most respects a period peace, although it doesn't stay in the same period. I've been purchasing aerial photos of the same area - Nepean-Parkwood Hills - for three years now, images of the same area but taken in different times. The earliest I have right now is September 7th, 1962. The idea is I'm tracking the visual history of the neighbourhood I grew up in from the 1960s to the present. I've got aerial photos taken in 1962, '65, '66, '67, '68, '71, '73, '75, '78, '81, '83, '85, '87, '91, '93, '96, and '99. I haven't bothered purchasing images post 2000 because I'm filling out images taken in the 20th century first. Every image that was taken, essentially. It's a long but, to me anyway, fun process.

The story started out as an interest of writing about a character who lived where I grew up, in the 1960s or any time that wasn't the present, particularly before I was born and lived there myself. Then I thought of the idea of writing about this character's life by tracking it through the same dates as most of my aerial photos in my growing collection. I'd start in 1962, and make my way forward through history, eventually to the present. It made perfect sense in terms of not just tracking this character's life but the physical setting in which he lives and grows, because I have the visual image of it in front of me via aerial photos. There's his house, there's the school he goes to, the store his mother buys milk at, the park he plays with his friends in. All physically there in the image, and present in real life accordingly (if whatever specified setting is still there today).

The story starts with this family moving into a brand new bungalow at the corner of Meadowlands Drive and Deerpark Road. The house is real. They have a four-year-old son named Daniel. In the first chapter, his maternal grandfather takes him to Mooney's Bay and they sit atop the hill, where Daniel asks him what the meaning of life is.

It continues on from there; the theme of the meaning of life is recurrent throughout the story. Daniel grows up, and his parents have two more children, a younger sister and brother. He goes to Fisher Heights for school, and throughout his education does very well, being gifted academically, though unfortunately he gets bullied throughout high school. Eventually he begins a career in news journalism and makes a family of his own, having three children in the late 80s and early 90s (Colin, Edwin and Brooke, respectively). He struggles mentally with his career choices as he gets more and more famous on TV, and has a major personal setback in 1999. By the 2000s, he has his own show, and the story focuses on his siblings, children and friends almost as equally. It finally ends in this year, in June.

Other than the recurrent meaning of life, the story ties things together throughout and uses family, familiarity, tradition, and personal emotional growth as its main themes. Past 2002, I stop using the dates of aerial photos as I can't locate the dates of images taken in years after that, but that's okay. I based all of the characters on bits of people throughout my life, as well as myself, and there are many 'hybrid' characters, those who are based on more than one person or his or her actions. Daniel's best and longest friend Nick has some of my father's actions in him as he unintentionally gets someone pregnant in 1991 and leaves the city for a job opportunity, then later marries a young foreign woman and has a child with her. Colin has Asperger's Syndrome, though Edwin, Daniel's second son, doesn't and takes part in the Swim Team in high school, like I did.

These are the real-life settings that are mentioned or included in the manuscript:

Rockliffe
Hintonburg
Mooney's Bay
Fisher Heights Elementary School
Century Public School
Merivale K-Mart (closed in 2002)
Long Park (Steve Maclean Park)
Parkwood Hills Foodland store (the 'corner store' of my childhood)
Merivale High School
Auto-Sky Drive-in (closed 1981)
Merivale McDonald's
Inverness Park
Carleton University
CJOH-TV station (1500 Merivale Road, destroyed by fire in 2010, demolished 2011)
Algonquin College
Toronto
Baskin Robbins 888 Hog's Back location
Dairy Queen Merivale/Clyde location
Los Angeles (or L.A.)
Los Angeles City College
Zena's Fisher Heights Plaza
Civic Hospital
Sir Winston Churchill Public School
Zellers Merivale location (closed 2013, replaced by Target)
Meadowlands Mall
Wendy's Merivale location

If I remember more I'll add to the list, but just about all of them are local settings or places. Despite the story taking place in a developing neighbourhood in the 60s, 70s, and so on, I stayed away from focusing too much on the detail of how it was changing because while it applied, it wasn't a history of Parkwood Hills/Fisher Heights/Borden Farm, it was a story about this character's life, as well as the lives of his family and friends. That said, a lot of places in the area are referred to or mentioned, and some places, particularly Mooney's Bay, have a recurring tie-in to the story. Daniel gets a Ford Maverick for his 20th birthday in 1978; a lot of things, some of them which tie things in his life together at different times, happen in that car. Playing with those kind of story elements is part of my style.

Anyway, you can read the story here. Just click on the 'More' next to the 'Latest Writing' and a drop-down list of all the chapters of Daniel Morgan show up in chronological order going up. I think it's a pretty good story. I'm pleased with it.

Justin C.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cheekbones By the Book

This song has been playing in my head for days now, yet it's been an entire year since I first heard it properly. It's by a Canadian artist, and it's, as you'd expect, from the 1980s.

It was late December, 2012, when I heard it in my car. I was downtown with a friend, just driving around. It sounded extremely polished and full of style, well-executed, and I remember my friend Shawn reacting to one of the lyrics - "I thought I heard 'cheekbones by the book."

It's called 'Cosmetics' and it's by Canadian solo artist (and since 1999, lead singer of American veteran band Styx) Lawrence Gowan (or just "Gowan" as he was referred to back in the day). Now you might think it sounds kind of effeminate or silly at first glance - when I asked an older co-worker what he immediately thought of when I gave him both names, he immediately said "gay" - but it's quite far from it. Interestingly, this co-worker of mine (who is 57) would clarify that the name 'Gowan' sounded gay, but put it into the right context - the guy was born in Scotland. It's his surname. What's so gay about that? Why not just say any surname is gay then? What a stupid way to look at things.

Rather, the song appears to be an observation or comment on the superficial lifestyle. All the lyrics refer to a woman who "flew in from London, [only] to shop 7th Avenue." The entire song is about this woman's perfect beauty in every means, from high fashion to, indeed, cheekbones by the book. He gives some explanation here (I can't embed it).


I'd hear it on the radio many times, on Boom FM, and enjoy it quite a lot thanks to the song's very flashy, stylistic bass groove. It's largely on C#. I like how fast and flashy it sounds, and exact. Gowan's voice is good too.

As for Gowan, this song wasn't the first I'd heard of him. Actually, I'd first seen the name on my mother's ancient VHS tape of music videos/interviews from the mid-late 80s to the mid-90s. A couple of his songs/videos are on there - 'Moonlight Desires,' 'All the Lovers in the World,' etc. - and I never took one listen to any of them when I came across them on the tape. There's that post on here in which I listed all of the songs on the tape - 75 of them - and he's listed a few times. I never played the tape during his videos to watch/listen, as I wasn't interested. I just wrote his name and song info down in compiling that list, and that was it. Fast-forward. I had no idea who he was, or that he was Canadian, or that he did anything I liked, just that he was on the tape and that was his name and song name. When I finally heard the commentator on Boom FM mention the song was by Gowan (and called 'Cosmetics') I looked it up and matched it. Neat. The radio station would also play 'Moonlight Desires' and 'Strange Animal,' both of which I do enjoy.

'Cosmetics' was the fourth single from his 1985 album Strange Animal, which was considered his breakout album. He'd started solo earlier in the 80s and had a band in the late 70s called Rhinegold. Some have apparently looked to him as the "Canadian Elton John" because his main instrument is the piano, for which he was classically trained in; he finished in the Royal Conservatory of Music with the instrument at the young age of 19. I think most people (at least in Canada) probably know Gowan the most by his signature song 'A Criminal Mind' which is a great piano song but not my favourite. It's his signature song, I think.

In the late 90s, while still enjoying a modest solo career here, he opened for Styx in Quebec City while they were looking for a way to do a big tour without Dennis DeYoung, their original long-time founding member, organist and lead-singer/songwriter (who had an illness at the time). Gowan ended up meshing so well with the band that they had him go on tour with them, by which time Styx decided to make him a permanent replacement. He's still with them today, and they even play his signature hit 'A Criminal Mind' with him.

As for 'Cosmetics,' the song, along with the rest of the album, was helped along by session musicians that worked with Peter Gabriel. Tony Levin plays that neat bass groove - though while I thought for awhile that it was keyboard bass (it sounds like it) it's actually very likely a Chapman Stick - an instrument that's basically just a fretboard. Instead of picking or plucking or fingering with one hand while fretting with the other, both hands just fret. The sound is instantly created when you fret the string down on the board. Most people who play it see the instrument as a combination keyboard/bass/guitar, etc., as you can fret with both hands and create chords just by fretting on the board. One hand can fret a melody while the other does the bass or a chord. Because the bass is so perfectly fretted out and fast and polished in the song, I'm pretty sure Levin's fretting a Chapman Stick - and furthermore, he plays the instrument in the concert footage I've seen of Gowan performing that song.

Something I find kind of funny about the song in general is the lack of any actual piano. There's the nice introduction, and lead-ins, and bridge, etc., but otherwise Gowan plays two sustained chords throughout all the verses, with more in the chorus. He holds down a B major (third inversion), then C# major (second inversion). The chorus has more chords to correspond with the rest of the musical procession but otherwise the verses are kind of empty, and he's the big pianist. That little riff of notes that immediately proceed the chorus? D#-B-G#-C#.

I'm not mocking him or how he plays the song or his talent; I just find it a little funny that he doesn't really actually play much during the song. He sings more than he plays. Those chords are flashy-sounding - largely due to the sound of the keyboard itself than the notes - but that's it.

In general, the music does what it set out to do in my mind, if it tries to reflect what high fashion might sound or be like, superficial desires, magazines, the Parisian Look. The bass groove really helps out that style, and I'm sure similar-sounding music can be heard at fashion shows, with runways and all that stuff. I like quite a lot of the lyrics - "everything for the girl next door," "Manhattan styles, Parisian Look," etc. He gets quite illustrative and contrasty. There's quite a difference between a high fashion model and 'the girl next door' in my opinion (to me a big fashion model would be tall, skinny, dressed in very artistic or stylistic clothes, and made-up completely with make-up while the girl next door would simply just be very cute and alluring and attractive without any of that). Manhattan Style and the "Parisian Look" are basically two separate continents/styles altogether, one very European and the other very urban. There's the lyric "shadows and highlights, she'll make you burst at the seams." Complete opposites. Gowan's a pretty good songwriter.

Then there's the music video, which doesn't make much sense to me but is still fun and kind of creative. Gowan visits the Moon (where, I guess for authenticity, there's an American flag, though I'd still prefer a Canadian one). Technicians are watching him on a big screen in wherever, Houston maybe, and commenting as he acts on the screen. He takes his space helmut off, sits at a white grand piano, and acknowledges the human-like creature sitting next to the piano, who presents him with a fashion magazine (The Moon Issue?) He simply says, "Good morning."


One obvious thing I find quite funny about that whole video are the random little scenes of what look like an animated drawing of some sort of space probe thing. It sort of floats in an out of scene now and then, looking extremely cartoonish and amateur. It almost looks like a child drew it, really, and it just appears out of nowhere from time to time. The very low-quality, primitive, almost childish-looking probe-thing actually makes me laugh because it's silly-looking in every way, including in how it moves.

Through his singing, piano-playing, and physical antics, Gowan transforms the grey, dusty moon into a sort of warm paradise with plant life, as the nondescript grey people join in and turn into mildly attractive women, moving with him. The bit of him at the end of the last chorus making that contrived arm-to-chest movement to coincide with the grunt he makes in the song makes me laugh; I bet all the girls who liked him back then swooned over it.

That music video is a perfect showcase of Gowan's persona; he's like that on stage in real performances if he isn't completely restricted to his piano. I can't embed it, but here's a video of him performing the song live in the 80s. Considering he doesn't constantly play the piano in this song, he's pretty much free to be all fun and bouncy as he is in that video.

Music: A-
Lyrics: A-
Video: B+

All in all, I like his lyrics and how they differ from each other, the music's authenticity to the subject matter and its style, and the silly, but fun video (I almost think the little probe-like thing looked intentionally silly in that video).

Justin C. (Not the boy next door).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

No More Paternal Influence...

Yesterday, at 3:30 EST, my father, his wife, and two children (my half-brother and sister) boarded a one-way flight to Jordan from Montreal.

Until I decide to go myself, I won't be seeing him until then - so months.

The two and a half year arrangement is something that's been planned and prepared for and known about for an entire year now. And something like this was bound to happen sometime, at least since the 1980s. I say that because a few days ago my father explained his ambition to be a diplomat: "When I got of the plane and stepped onto the tarmac in 1982 in Trinidad and Tobago, and went to the V.I.P. suite, my father came along riding in a big car with a Canadian flag on the front, and that's when I realized, 'this is what I want to be.'" My grandfather was a Canadian Ambassador to that country as well as a couple of others throughout his later career, all diplomatic.

I'd like to say that this isn't that difficult, really - I don't see my father very often anymore to begin with, since I started working (and Wal-Mart always schedules me weekends, during any family dinners or opportunities to visit). After I was born, my father went and volunteered to go to Cambodia, in 1992. This was followed by his multi-year stay in Africa, Portugal, and other countries in Europe throughout the mid- to latter 90s, most of my early childhood (although there were many times I did see him, of course.
1993
I remember some of the neat stuff he brought back with him when he lived there. At one point a giant black-and-white poster of Daffy Duck and Tazmanian Devil watching eagerly as Bugs Bunny lined up a shot on a pool table was up on the wall of my bedroom in Parkwood Hills. He'd sent me a good luck belt thing made from a Witch Doctor, according to him, once as well (it didn't seem to do anything but I remember wearing it under my swim suit during a swim lesson at the Minto-managed outdoor pool). Probably the most "controversial" thing he sent back was a cassette tape of himself and a friend of his in Africa, for my fifth birthday. I didn't really hear it properly until a couple of years ago when I came across it in my mother's room. What I could glean off of the recording was that it was late at night and the two of them were alternating between talking to me and singing on the guitar (while smoking).
Before his wedding ceremony, 2003
The difference about all of this, though, is that as a child I was aware of my father who was away, far away, and I always looked forward to seeing him, but as he leaves this time, it's no longer just him but his wife and my half-siblings. More to miss this time. Of course, in lieu of the colourful postcards he used to send from Africa or Europe in the 90s will be e-mail and digital photos transferred online and Skype, etc. etc., but it'll be at least a little strange knowing once again, after over a decade of him being here, with growing half-siblings, that he no longer lives here, he's no longer around, not in any conceivable distance except for various modes of transport among a huge ten-hour plane trip.

Jordan is only one aspect of this entire thing; he's not posted there in a diplomatic posting. It's the home of the family. He'll actually be posted at the Canadian Embassy in Iraq. A months' work there, then a week home with the family in Jordan, then another month back in Iraq. For a little over two years they'll all be living there, all on another continent, in another country, another hemisphere. We just had a few inches of snow fall. Yesterday, the four of them left on a plane from all this snow, all to arrive instead in desert region, sand.

It'll definitely be unusual. I'll get used to it. In terms of people being around or not, I'm pretty used to those kinds of changes. We had a few last bashes before they left. There was a huge party thrown by his oldest friend Ian a few weeks ago - that was an enormous guest list. Then there was a final family dinner on Sunday two days ago. They'd left their house by that point - all their bigger furniture either in storage or sold off, or shipped via sea or plane. I acquired some minor camping equipment from him because I intend on going on my own this summer, and he also gave me a painting (of my choosing; I took one on which we both collaborated in 2009, a farm scene). 

Yesterday I got myself up extremely early and drove to my paternal grandparents in my robe to have one more breakfast with all of them - my father, his wife Umo, Nelson, Malaika, and my grandparents - before they were to drive off to Montreal to catch their flight. They'd checked out of their hotel. In all exact circumstances, they were merely visitors now, no longer rooted in this place, just travellers making their last little stop in this city, region, province, country, continent, hemisphere, climate, whatever. They were dressed in sharp contrast to my house clothes and robe, made up as a well-dressed diplomatic party, although they would be on a huge plane for ten hours and only make one intended stop to a store or grocery for food before falling asleep in their government-arranged residence at 9am Jordan time, 1am Ottawa time.
January 4th, 2014
I'll miss him. I only have three paternal relatives in Ottawa other than my grandparents now - two uncles and one aunt. There's only three of us cousins left at the moment, as well - myself and two girls, one older than me and the other only six. I do look forward to an even greater feeling of independence than the one I got after getting a car, but I will also look forward to doing some travelling of my own - it's not like I'm not going to visit them of course. Jordan'll be a neat experience for me when I eventually go - the furthest I've ever been is San Diego in the States and Vancouver. To cross the ocean and visit the middle-east? That would never be something I'd think I'd do. That should be one big thing to look forward to.

I hope they're doing well. If it's 3pm here now it'll be late at night over there. They're probably getting settled in. I'm happy my dad has finally managed to get to this point in his career. He isn't where my grandfather was in '82 in Trinidad/Tobago yet, but now he's definitely on the solid path to that.

Good luck, all of you.

Justin C.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Matilda: Redux

While I already wrote a sort-of review on the movie Matilda back in 2011, I never actually took a proper look at the film in a critiquing sort of way; the post was rather more about me seeing the film with adult eyes and listening to the dialogue rather than looking at it seriously.

A couple of things about the film had crept back into my mind over the past few days, so I decided to watch it again. And in doing a bit of research (looking on Wikipedia), I noticed some interesting connections and, I don't know, quirks, to look at. So here I go.

Did I listen to the dialogue? Yes. But the first time, I didn't really take in how inane it actually is, at least between the adults in the film. It's a film that would really appeal to children because the scenes are set up in an almost surreal, fictitious way that would engage a child, and the dialogue is actually simple and, to an adult's ears, not in any way believable.

Take the way Harry Wormwood, Matilda's father, battles wits with her: She gives him a logical explanation, and he expresses phrases borne of extreme stupidity and ignorance. In one scene she calculates his profit for the day in her head as he gives her older brother each individual figure, and when he accuses her of "being a smart aleck" and seeing the paper, she reasons that she was all the way at the other end of the table. How could you not agree with that? The only way to write that scene is to have him take the 'don't question what I say regardless or you're going to be punished' approach. Which just brings out that ignorance.

It's what the movie basically set out to do - it's based on the novel, which paints all these adult figures - Matilda's parents, her school principal - as small-minded, sneering, self-centred morons, and how a little self-strength, intelligence, and open-mindedness can defeat even the worst of those characters.

Looking at the Trunchbull character, when you think about it, no one on this planet could possibly be like her, at least in her circumstances. She's nothing short of insane; she hates children yet runs a school. She has an insane view and hatred of something she puts herself in the thick of everyday, whether to have fun bullying and tormenting them, or for some other crazy reason, though it seems the most like she simply just has fun hating something and putting herself through it every day. Her dialogue may have some inventive words in it, but there's absolutely no sense to anything she says whatsoever.

Both Harry Wormwood and Agatha Trunchbull, the two main antagonists of the film, rant and rave and cause abuse with absolutely no sense or reasoning. Which may be a typical walk in the park for most villains, but I don't know, it kind of seems like their lack of any common sense or intelligence almost stretches too far for it to be believable to any critical eye. At the end of the film, while Matilda visits Ms. Honey at her house for tea and cookies, Harry and Zinnia suddenly pull up in front of the house, leaving for Guam because "Daddy's not gonna be in the auto business anymore." In the background, you hear sirens, and they're obviously in a hurry. The FBI watching Harry throughout the film is a subplot, but both him and Zinnia ignore Matilda's recurring statement that they're cops for the rather unusual belief that they're speedboat salesmen. Despite the sirens, despite being in a hurry and abandoning his business, leaving for Guam, Harry goes on to say, in that scene, that they've "got to beat the speedboat salesmen to the airport."

I don't know whether or not he still hadn't had that lightbulb turn on in his head, or whether the film simplified it for the children watching it like you'd disguise a swear word with a similar-sounding one (fudge for fuck, for instance) but would the screenwriters depend on children to read between the lines? None of it makes any sense, because if they still think they're racing against speedboat salesmen to the airport, why are they even racing then? What would "speedboat salesmen" have against the Wormwoods? The whole thing is dubious because I don't know whether or not Harry realized they were FBI agents or if he just got a bad feeling and decided to pack the family up and go to Guam instantaneously, and hey, there's the speedboat salesmen, let's try and beat them to the airport, race is on!

The film was written by the husband and wife team of Nick Kazan and Robin Swicord. The Kazan name looked familiar, and after looking it up, it turns out their daughter Zoe was the director and lead in the film Ruby Sparks - a movie I haven't seen but am interested in. That's a neat connection. It's like a three-generational thing, because Nick Kazan's father was a well-known actor in his time, and these days his own daughter is doing the same thing. Nick also wrote Bicentennial Man, a film that's neat but leaves me feeling how short life can be.

In the film, there's a doll that Ms. Honey had as a child that she can't reach because her backstory has Ms. Trunchbull revealed as her step-aunt and dubious heir to her house and possessions - named "Liccy Doll" - and first I didn't give any notice. But then I saw that the film was co-produced by Roald Dahl's second wife - Felicity "Liccy" Dahl. Neat connection. I don't know whether the deceased author would have approved of his second wife letting her name (not his) come up somewhere in the film when it's an adaptation of his book, though perhaps I've forgotten and there was a Liccy Doll in the original book already. Actually, although I did not really look closely enough, perhaps a Roald Dahl book is one of the books in Matilda's wagon in one scene.

A lot of things in the film still make me laugh, though Ms. Trunchbull's squirmy dancing to get the newt off her chest no longer does it. The scenes of her struggling with the useless car she bought off of Harry Wormwood were the funny bits. I think it underlines the hopelessness of such a crazy character. It's all a combination of camera angles, her bombastic speech and her abnormal actions. Not to mention the broken-down rattles, screeches and bangs the engine makes in each scene she's driving it. During the film, she leaves her house with a trunk full of shot puts and javelins, while Matilda and Ms. Honey sneak inside to retrieve the doll; interspersed with scenes of them in the house are ones of Ms. Trunchbull struggling to move anywhere. What particularly got me was the scene of the car slowly moving away from the camera. One major thing I hadn't noticed before was the licence plate - instead of a normal licence number, it's a bright Wormwood dealership sign. Meanwhile the car is knocking and inching, and Ms. Trunchbull is coming up with ridiculous phrases ("I'll shift you!"). The colourful Wormwood sign is like the clincher to the whole thing - it just underscores the pathetic situation completely - great minds think alike, eh?

Then she literally gets out of the car, lifts the weight of the rear wheels off the ground, and turns the vehicle around completely by crabbing sideways in a semi-circle. It's totally nuts, crazy and just fun to look at, especially as you get the fender-level shot of her pumping her legs to move the car forward.

I wonder if director Danny DeVito was inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger when they co-starred together in Twins and the mighty Austrian Oak lifted the back of a sedan clear off the ground with DeVito inside to disarm the car alarm.

Later you get a ground-level scene of her returning home, the car moving smoother than ever despite it relying on the unbelievable power of this madwoman, and the scene stays wide as she screams and rants, kicking the side of the car, screaming things like "crush the little weasel!" There's a trail of substance along the gravel, I don't know what it is, but it could be sawdust.

Characters like Agatha Trunchbull in that film make hatred and anger and ferocity look childish, silly, and laughable. She rants inventive threats on the phone. Everything about that character is exaggerated to the fullest extent - from the bombastic words to the mocking, overplayed facial expressions and crazy rage (sometimes she seems more animal than human). I think one of the biggest aspects Pam Ferris tried to fulfill with Agatha Trunchbull is the evil witch-like aspect - the mannerisms, the mock English politeness, pretend sweetness, voice, and movements. Some of the camera movements also help accentuate this, like her larger-than-life speech climaxing with her self-proclamation as 'God' in that school (the camera zooms up to her face dramatically through this speech). Add in the bits of her aggressively eating chocolate fudge cake with her hands and the whole image is complete. The cake helps make her teeth yellow and her face full of smearing.

Ms. Trunchbull wears a sweater for the 1972 Olympic Games, which did happen in Munich, Germany, but when I looked up the Athletics tables for the events, they didn't have Hammer Throw listed in the Women's categories; it wouldn't be included as a women's event until the 2000 Sydney Games. Shot put and Javelin are there, with gold medal winners from the Soviet Union and East Germany, respectively. The character is well-known in the film as winning a medal in all three events and she appears to spend her free time at home spearing javelins high into the wall while throwing shot puts around her office at school.

One other thing I want to mention is Danny DeVito's almost overbearing presence; he directed the film, produced it, narrated it, starred in it as Harry Wormwood, and steals quite a lot of scenes. One of the reasons I watched it again was a random memory of Matilda leaving the house at night, and her brother flicking a carrot at her; she reverses it back at him with her powers and he ends up coughing it out of his mouth. Out of nowhere, from offscreen, Harry suddenly shouts "Chew your food, you're an animal." You don't see him, and I don't think you'd expect to hear him, but there he goes again, even having to yell his frame of mind in from the background...is it about Danny DeVito acting as Harry or is it about Matilda? That whole thought, even his voice popping out of nowhere for screen time, just makes me laugh. How can you narrate the film and simultaneously be one of the main antagonists? His effort in separating the two same voices does come to some fruition because he fooled me when I was a kid, and his voice is obviously that of two different characters, but still. His presence is something I remembered the most in that film.

There's one more little connection I want to make before I conclude this, and it's the British thing. It's an American film adaptation of a British novel by a British author. And while it's an Americanization of a British children's book, the main antagonist, Agatha Trunchbull, is still (almost pointedly) English among her American counterparts and setting. She's the only one with an English accent; interestingly, Embeth Davidtz is also an English actress, yet her accent is covered up with an American one. You have here an American adaption of a British novel with American characters being antagonized by a crazy British woman. Why is it so back and forth? I guess the English accent just helps make the evil witch stereotype even more obvious.

All in all, while I do sound a lot more harsh in my criticisms of the film simply not being believable, it still did a great job of making a good vignette of a Roald Dahl story, particularly in the inane dialogue of the antagonists, the camera angles (a great one is the crooked angle of the scene of Harry dragging Matilda out of her room) and the nature of the story.

Davidtz would later star in Bicentennial Man, which I mentioned earlier as also being written by Nick Kazan. I would later see blown-up versions of Pam Ferris hanging from the ceiling of the movie theatre as I went in to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - by then she'd gone from the crazy Trunchbull to being the cruel Aunt Marge that Harry blows up in the film. As for Mara Wilson (Matilda), I believe she doesn't act in much of anything anymore and rather regards acting as simply 'not fun.' This is something I remember on an article I read two years ago. I guess she grew out of child acting the same way Jonathan Lipnicki (Stuart Little), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) and Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone) did; they all continue to act in some way or another but I haven't heard of almost any of the films in their filmographies nor have I seen them in any recent movies or television shows (now of course I don't watch much to begin with, so I'll let people who actually watch TV decide on that).

Well, it's 3:30 in the morning, so I think I've said enough. It's still great - the scenes of Ms. Trunchbull struggling with her car (which she continues to use through to the end of the film) are memorable, the dialogue is still interesting (if not ridiculous in places) and it hasn't lost its childhood aspect for me.

Justin C.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In the Studio with Red Cloud

The idea of sound recording - your voice, instruments, whatever - has been at the back of my mind as something I found appealing for years. At least since early in high school. It originally came about as the amazing fun I could have screwing around with sound, playing it in reverse largely, or changing the pitch. It blasted my mind in late 2007 when I first got Adobe Premier...Elements. I'd gotten that for Christmas along with my first DV camcorder, etc., and that was to fuel my interest in filming things like little documentaries at the time. But you could also put audio files into the program and stretch them, make them longer and slower, change the tempo but keep the pitch the same; you could also play with the pitch anyway using the seeker bar, which controls the speed at which you're watching the video.

It really did something for me, that. I slowed down songs like 'Our House' and, as I was really starting to listen to it often at the time, 'In the City.' I slowed down parts of songs that I found something different or appealing about, and listened carefully, altered the pitch, etc. Things that I admired or found attractive in people, or noticed about them, suddenly [via synesthesia] jumped out at me much more clearly, and hearing them in a higher or lower pitch altered the age they were, yet they were still the same, generating an entirely new aspect and depth altogether. I wasn't merely laughing while listening to myself talk in reverse; I was experiencing a whole new way of listening to music while at the same time becoming more attracted to certain people at the time (like that bloody girl).

I bought my piano keyboard in the summer of 2010. Then came the period of my using my camera to film/record myself playing drums, and then struggling to also time the bass and piano right to it (this struggle came from my not having practiced the chords long enough to be able to play them without mistakes or complete screw-ups). I ended up with a few little things and at the time I'd often also rely on the drum voices on the keyboard. None of these demos were more than a minute or two long as I was using very limited stuff - the first, full-length song I tried to put together took me several days and used only my keyboard and bass guitar, and a computer microphone really for webcam use (I also used it in the narration for that documentary I did early 2008, for which it turned out crappy). It's inconsistent, overlong, but almost jazzy-sounding. I had no idea what I was playing on the piano at all - I just knew whatever chords I was playing sounded good.

Fast-forward to mid-March of last year. I was in my final semester of college in the Photography program. In my multimedia class, we had to do a project where you interviewed someone (not in class) with a proper camera (Canon 5D) and sound-recording equipment, including scripts, storey boards, etc. I did my friend Duncan and we used a boom microphone, because it was supposed to sound way better than the camera's internal microphone.

The music in the background is something I came up with, just a song demo. If it had been up to me I wouldn't have included it but the professor required that I add background music and I definitely wasn't going to use any of the samples from the free music download site we were given.

It was the use of the microphone for the audio in that interview, though, that awakened a bigger interest in me; the previous year I'd found this neat thing online where you could download these 'mogg' files of the multitracks of real songs by many different artists. I'd ended up downloading a few of them and listening to how they'd done it - recording a drum set with individual mics for each drum and then overhead ones for the cymbals and any ambience, and then one or two mics for the other instruments, like guitar and piano, etc. This gave me the idea to try that myself - use the mics and recording equipment available in the ER at school, and try recording my drums.

I started with the same microphones used in that school project, and this HN1 Zoom recorder thing that was a combination microphone and recorder, with additional XLR inputs for two other microphones. It was an advised audio tool to use for the interview project but I'd decided not to use it for fear of it being too difficult to figure out. I ended up figuring it out anyway for these little recording experiments. I placed it in front of my bass drum and found ways to have the other two boom mics positioned in front of my hi-hat and snare drum.

The whole affair of experimentation (including on my bass guitar) was quite fun and gave me interesting results that often had me learning from it and finding ways to make everything sound better. The boom mics were awful for recording such a loud hit on the drum or hi-hat, but the recorder itself captured my bass drum marvellously. This led to my purchasing a sound mixer and a couple of inexpensive pencil mics (Behringer C2s) which came as a pair. This continued throughout the spring. I talked to one of the clerks in the ER that did sound recording on his own and got advice on equipment to use and technique. I bought another pair of C2s, just knowing that they're microphones and that's it. In the summer, I drove the majority of my drum kit to Duncan's, as well as my keyboard and bass and mixer, and we did some recording together (well, mostly I played everything myself while he gave input and advice and played with the mixer levels and his own microphones).

Throughout that year I searched now and then for a mixer or device that would separate each microphone input so I could hear each of them separately and adjust them as necessary. I got an okay sound with the mixer and mics I had then but it still sounded very demo-y and rough and upper lower quality. It mixed every input down to one stereo track of the whole set that I had mic'ed at the time (the snare/hi-hat, cymbals, bass drum (bought a specific mic for that in the early summer) and lower tom drum). My first expensive microphone was the kick mic, designed solely for kick drums and low instruments. I had stands for a few of them as well.

A big breakthrough came in November. I was looking at the microphones at a music store and wondering about a board that properly separated each input and ended up buying a microphone called an SM-57. I was also advised to look at recording interfaces rather than mix boards. I would go on to learn (other than a multitude of people uncannily saying 'you can't go wrong with an SM-57' verbatim) that the microphone is basically widely-used by many popular bands for their snare drum at least, and has been for many years (the snare drum on some Madness tracks, including 'Our House,' etc. was mic'ed by an SM-57). Over a few weeks I acquired two of them. Then another huge breakthrough came in late December when I used Boxing Day and money I'd acquired through Christmas and my birthday to buy a proper audio interface.

It's got eight inputs and basically it's the device between the computer or output and the microphones. In Audacity or Audition (I have both) it multitracks each input independently so I have a separate track for each microphone. The number of mic stands grew and it's enabled me to tinker and adjust and alter each mic so that I'm recording each drum as nicely as possible with little bleed from other mic'ed drums.

With all of this has come a lot of research, reading and interest. I know now that I am definitely now determined to build a full recording studio with all the mics not just for drums but all other instruments too. I'd gotten interesting, neat results with the SM-57 mic on my bass amp, and a few weeks ago my father gave me a few extra ones he had in his basement for me to use. I was going to close a deal with my friend Duncan on a proper speaker system but I ran out of time after using all my money to pay for my college tuition. It would have gone towards a proper way of hearing what I'd recorded.

I'm doing my homework, finally. I know what those C2 mics are now - basically okay condenser mics that are fine but not industry quality, and I know the SM-57s are widely-known, widely used dynamics often used by studios on snare drums, maybe other lower drums on a kit (like the toms) and some guitar or bass amps. Those are industry quality things. I've tinkered away like crazy on my own microphone setups, and this is only the drums. Wait until I move on to piano and bass. Part of me wants to try electric guitar out in the future and I like the idea of taking piano lessons again this year - I took them for a short while when I was very young, might as well finish it off and go forward from my intermediate knowledge of chords, scales, and what sounds good, etc. Synesthesia can go far but this would pitch me straight forward much farther.

One thing I've found quite nuts is how in producing albums the engineers do all the recording over a month or two, and then spend sometimes half a year mixing the darn things. How difficult does that have to be, really? In the old days I guess it varied. In Madness' case it often took a few weeks for the producers to mix their tracks, which is pretty amazing when you think of some of the unusual affairs they had to deal with in the early years (like Lee Thompson playing and recording his sax out of tune, putting tacks in Mike Barson's piano, etc.) Perhaps it's a lot quicker these days with all the superior digital methods, but for me I don't want it to be that easy.

What I've heard about music these days is that other than the ease of mixing compared to twenty years ago, there are simply a lot of shortcuts. A friend of mine who has recorded stuff with his little band mentioned techniques such as sampling - simply using a previously recorded sample of a snare drum and putting it in so there's not really a drummer, just an already-recorded repeating snare - and something else I can't remember that uses algorithms to detect where you went off-time in your beats or rhythm, and corrects it. It all sounds extremely glossy and over-perfected to me - easy, sure, but to my ears, fake and too precise. Imagine hitting a snare drum once, and then using that same hit as the snare for an entire song. To a lot of peoples' ears, that kind of sampling makes it sound 'perfect.' But there are slight, minute differences in the sound of a drum each time you hit it, giving it a depth. It sounds more different and diverse, if you listen. Otherwise, from my point of view, if you do it the sampling way, then you're just hearing the exact same thing over and over again throughout the song - which sound paradoxical as you're hearing the same snare regardless, but imagine somebody saying something - 'hi' - and you take it and sample it and replay it over and over from beginning to end. The tone of voice is the same - the inflection is the same, the timbre, the pitch, everything. It's like a bit of stuck film, or a broken record. Which a lot of people seem to enjoy listening to in popular music these days, considering all the songs that have repetitive stuttering in them.

I guess I'm old-school, but I just like the sound of actual, original-sounding, acoustic drums. In Audition, I can do something called 'Mastering' which changes the tone of a drum and gives it reverb, high peaks, echo, and so on. It brings the level of sound quality way up and makes it sound similar to the drums in those mogg files I downloaded, but the difference is that those drums already had an ambience to them naturally in the studio whereas I created it artificially. I'd rather find a way to create it naturally - and do as little 'mastering' or mixing or digital finessing as possible. Nothing is perfect; people striving to use all this nice digital technology and sampling to get ever close to sounding perfect is neat in its own sense but they'll never get it to sound perfect because not everyone will like the 'perfectionism' of hearing one-hit snare sounds in a perfect, robotic-like beat without human error. Clive Langer and Allan Winstanley, the engineers and producers in the mixing room while Madness recorded their stuff, noticed Lee's out-of-tune sax immediately; they used an effect called a harmonizer to mostly fix it but nevertheless saw his erroneous playing as an integral part of the bands' sound. They fixed it with a harmonizer, yes, but the effects of it weren't perfect; you can still tell his sax is kind of off - yet it works. If they didn't want that, they would have told him right away how to fix it, and in the interim period hired a session player, forgoing the whole harmonizing part of the affair.

In the months and years to come, as I self-teach and train myself in all aspects of sound-recording and music, I hope to create a sound that is in a way original and acoustic, put together and worked out, yet not perfect. I'm a one-man band as far as I can say; I can't play guitar yet, but I think I'll learn it in the future. I can't sing, but who knows. I may end up being a one-man instrumentalist while getting help from a singer, otherwise I write the lyrics, put the music together, perform it, and record it all on my own. In the studio of Red Cloud, that's how it may very well be.

It's been interesting, but I'm only getting started.

Justin C. (Red Cloud)